Clear Sailing: McCain, Graham to Support Tillerson [UPDATE: Rubio, Too]

Guy Benson
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Posted: Jan 23, 2017 1:01 PM

It's a simple numbers game. Senate Democrats, thanks to the Reid Rule, lack the power to block any of President Trump's cabinet nominees on their own. In order to derail any of them, they'll need at least a small handful of Republicans to break ranks and join the opposition -- with the added hurdle of staving off any defections from their own side.  One of their best opportunities for a takedown, it seemed, was at State, given the serious concerns about Rex Tillerson raised by a trio of GOP defense hawks.  But despite some intense questioning, Tillerson appeared steady and prepared throughout his confirmation hearing.  And now it looks like his approval may be a fair accompli.  Why?  Two-thirds of that skeptical triumvirate have now announced their intention to vote in his favor:

As McCain was rolled out his support for Tillerson on ABC yesterday morning, Lindsey Graham was doing the same over on CBS. "I'm voting for him," he said, explaining that he believes Tillerson understands the importance of America leading "from the front."  So that may leave Marco Rubio as the lone potential holdout (see update), having subjected Tillerson to the harshest grilling of any Republican during his hearing.  McCain had previously stated that he'd support Trump's selection for America's top diplomat "when pigs fly," but has obviously changed his tune.  Rubio was never quite that strident in his opposition, but remains publicly undecided as of now.  As this CBS News piece points out, the Florida Senator's calculus may be shifting now that Tillerson will be confirmed by the full Senate (via Ed Morrissey):

As the committee prepares to vote on Tillerson’s nomination, Rubio faces a dilemma. He must either back down, which means a retreat from a strong stand on Russia and human rights, or cross Trump in the first days of his presidency. A “no” vote from Rubio would not doom Tillerson’s confirmation, because the nomination could go directly to the Senate floor without a positive committee recommendation. But it would be an embarrassing rebuke to Trump just as his presidency gets underway, with questions swirling about his ties to Russia. GOP party activists would be certain to remember Rubio’s defection, although it’s impossible to predict how such a vote might look years from now if Rubio ever runs for president again...Neither McCain nor Graham is on the committee, but their support could make it tougher for Rubio to remain a holdout.

Will he cast a vote against Trump's nominee in committee, which would only deal an embarrassment to the Trump administration, but would not thwart his confirmation?  What would that accomplish?  At this point, I'd bet on at worst an abstention from Rubio in the committee vote, but more likely a yes vote. [UPDATE: As I wrote this post, Rubio unveiled his support for Tillerson]. Elsewhere in the confirmation battles, some Senate Republicans are steaming mad at Chuck Schumer for reneging on a promise regarding the confirmation of Trump's choice to lead the CIA.  Some fiery details from Steve Hayes:

[Based on Schumer's request], Republicans agreed to delay Pompeo['s hearing], whose team was happy to have an extra day to prepare. But the Republicans had a condition. If we agree to push back Pompeo's hearing for a day, they told Schumer, you must agree to include him in the group of national security officials who will be confirmed by a voice vote on Inauguration Day, January 20. According to these sources, Schumer agreed, with alacrity, having secured the delay he'd sought...Cotton asked Schumer why he'd gone back on his word. Schumer claimed that he'd only been speaking for himself when he promised to let Pompeo through. "I said that I would not block him," Schumer said, emphasizing the personal pronoun, according to sources who witnessed the exchange. "I never said that I could speak for 47 other Democrats." The Republicans were stunned. "I'm not telling Ron Wyden to do this," Schumer declared. "Why don't you go talk to Wyden?" "That ain't my job, Chuck," said Burr. "I know what you promised me," said Burr. "You made the deal!" Cornyn recalls: "That's when [Schumer] started dissembling and said: 'I don't control my whole caucus.' Either he'd lost control or he was trying to make excuses for an outcome he wanted."

Click through for some choice quotes from an irate Tom Cotton, including this one: "Eight years ago, I was getting my ass shot at in Afghanistan, so don't talk to me about where I was 8 years ago."  That was part of his irate retort when Schumer tried to invoke 2009 precedent to justify his violated pledge, which exposed either his lack of ethics or lack of control over the caucus he supposedly leads.  And if Schumer wants to apply the Obama timetable to Trump, I'd bet Republicans would happily accept it; it takes some real gall for any Democrat to cite that comparison.  Finally, Schumer is somewhat shrinking from his chest-thumping about obstructing any Supreme Court nominee (will it be this manthis man, or someone else?), but still vowing to block any pick that he deems to be outside of the "mainstream" (Schumer loves playing the 'extreme' card).  McConnell's response was rather unequivocal: